Architect Lord Norman Foster, founder and CEO of Foster+Partners, closed the 2008 World Future Energy Summit with a keynote speech imploring designers and architects to think positively and to ‘question everything'.
Using the example of the Foster+Partners-designed Masdar City, the six million ft² zero carbon, zero waste city to be built outside Abu Dhabi, Foster warned that energy use could not be divorced from architecture and urban planning. Good design would be the key to meeting the global climate challenge.
"Designers must be optimists. You need a belief in the future," said the renowned architect. "This world of greater sustainability has to be a better world."
Echoing other calls made at the summit for high-density developments, Foster demonstrated that densely populated ‘traditional' cities such as Hong Kong or London have lower petroleum usage and significantly smaller carbon footprints than ‘car dependent' cities such as Houston and Washington D.C. "There is much more potential in mixed-use towers," he said.
Foster declared that the least expensive elements of building design-including deeply grooved natural ventilation and careful consideration of orientation and form-provide far more environmental efficiency than more expensive options such as automated shading systems or photovoltaics.
Outlining plans for Masdar City, he admitted: "To do this in a desert environment is exceedingly challenging." He said that key to Masdar's success would be its orientation and the use of vernacular architectural concepts such as narrow streets, shaded marketplaces and vegetation. "My architect heroes don't have names; they're the architects of the vernacular," said Lord Foster.
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